The federal government has broad power to regulate legal and illegal drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. When must that power be curbed?
The Supreme Court has considered that question twice in the past year. Seven months ago, in Gonzales v. Raich, the Court ruled it constitutional for the federal government to prosecute cancer patients for using marijuana, even in a manner consistent with California’s medical marijuana law, under the authority granted to Congress by the Constitution “to regulate Commerce…among the several States.”
Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his Raich dissent that the respondents “use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana.” By counting this as interstate commerce, the Court declined to put any limit on the reach of the CSA.
But that was then. Yesterday the Court handed down its decision in Gonzales v. Oregon, which pitted CSA regulations against Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law, which allows doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication. The Court sided with Oregon, and five of the six justices in the majority in Oregon — Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, John Paul Stevens, and Anthony Kennedy — were also in the Raich majority.
This was a case of statutory rather than constitutional interpretation. But in rejecting the Justice Department’s claim that suicide is not a “legitimate medical purpose,” as required by federal regulation, the Court relied on the same federalist principles they rejected in Raich. Beyond prohibiting doctors from being drug dealers, Kennedy argued for the Oregon majority,
But it was the “structure and limitations of federalism” that the Court ignored in Raich. The majority opinion in Raich, written by Stevens, stated flatly that “the CSA is a comprehensive regulatory regime specifically designed to regulate which controlled substances can be utilized for medicinal purposes, and in what manner,” and argued that this was just fine. As Thomas wrote in his Oregon dissent,
Thomas added that the “Court’s reliance upon the constitutional principles that it rejected in Raich — albeit under the guise of statutory interpretation — is perplexing to say the least.” Is it so perplexing, though? There seems to be a simple principle at work: When must CSA power be curbed? When Kennedy and his liberal colleagues feel like it.
A simple principle — just not a good one.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?